Chris Stapleton has more than proved himself in Nashville as a songwriter, having co-written such hits as Luke Bryan’s “Drink A Beer,” Josh Turner’s “Your Man” and Thomas Rhett’s “Crash and Burn,” among others.
With the release of his “Traveller” CD, he is well on his way as establishing himself as a solo artist. In addition to his songwriting, Stapleton has been a backup vocalist in Nashville and was lead singer of The Steeldrivers. In addition to country and bluegrass, Stapleton has previously recorded rock as part of the Jompson Brothers.
The opening song on the “Traveller” CD is the title track. It doesn’t take long to notice that this sounds much different than a lot of what is played on mainstream radio these days. It sounds like country music, but it sounds much more like that outlaw country of the 1960s, 1970s and even the 1980s than it resembles anything on the radio today. The sound has resonated with fans, prompting some people to say that Stapleton is saving the country music genre.
I’m not sure that one artist or one CD is going to change the direction that country music seems to have taken in recent years, but Stapleton’s sound is definitely refreshing. I think it is a promising sign that fans are identifying with this sound and want to hear more. You won’t find Stapleton singing about tailgates or bonfires here. The lyrics are much deeper and emotional.
“Traveller” is a great example of the lyrical genius found in Stapleton’s writing. The lyrics are clear enough that the average listener will know what he is talking about, yet vague enough that the listener can interpret the meaning in their own way. That style of writing takes talent and allows the music to be much more personal for the listener. In the title track, Stapleton sings, “My heartbeat’s rhythm is a lonesome sound/ Just like the rubber turning on the ground/ Always lost and nowhere bound.”
The CD contains three songs that fans may have heard before. One is “Tennessee Whiskey,” which was a hit for George Jones. Stapleton’s version of the song sounds more soulful than Jones’ version did. I am glad that Stapleton has recorded the timeless song and has introduced it to a new generation. I am also happy that contributed his own flavor and style to the song instead of trying to duplicate Jones’ classic.
Another song that fans might recognize is “Whiskey and You,” a song Stapleton co-wrote and was recorded by Tim McGraw on his “Let It Go” CD. McGraw’s version was one of my favorite songs on the “Let It Go” CD, but it was never released as a single. The song compares alcohol to the woman he loves – he can go buy more alcohol, but he knows he won’t get her back.
The “Traveller” CD also features Stapleton’s version of “Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore,” which was previously recorded by Julie Roberts on her “Good Wine and Bad Decisions” CD. It is a great story song and it is one of my songs on the CD.
The songs on “Traveller” are well-written, but the thing that truly makes this CD memorable is Stapleton’s voice. From the bluegrass sound of “More of You” to the bluesy “Sometimes I Cry,” Stapleton proves that he is a versatile singer.
I hope Stapleton continues to write hit songs for other artists, but I hope he remembers to keep some of them for himself. “Traveller” leaves little doubt that Stapleton has what it takes to be a successful recording artist.